Tomfoolery

Gasa Nasara Am (My Whiteman Hair)

Nasara, c’est pour les blancs, les blanches et celles qui portent une greffe.”

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Lately, my town has realized there is something weird about my hair. I never braid it and I always seem to wearing the same weave hairstyle. Furthermore, I have hair almost everywhere—my legs, my arms, my toes—I’m practically a hobbit. (Note: it has also lately come to my attention how exactly hairy I am.)

This week though has especially stood out in what is the tangle of crosshair–cultural communication:

Scene 1:

Occasionally, little children will run up and pet me (at first I thought it was simply a touch, but it is definitely more of a stroke on my arms); however, this is the first week a grown man has petted me.

Feeling something on my arm, I open my eyes to see the meat kabob seller stroking me.

“Does it hurt?” he asks.

“No…it is just hair.”

“Ahh. It is good. I like it.” He continues stroking it. Fascinated. Intrigued. I remember my friend telling me that her boyfriend here was very turned on by her leg hair. I smile and nod, hoping that my arm hair does not have the same effect on him.

Perhaps in an effort to return the feeling, he turns to me and says, “I have hair all over my chest and belly.”

“Ohh…” Those are definitely two things that I a) do not find surprising and b) have no desire to see. I continue smiling and nodding.

“Will you give it to me?” he asks.

I burst out laughing, but he is still looking at me, questioningly. I realize he is serious.

I pause before responding. Usually when people ask me for my hair, it is from my head, which I have no desire to sell at the present moment, but arm hair…why not?

“Okay,” I respond. “Find a razor and its yours.”

“I don’t have a razor.”

“Oh. Assia.”

At least I still have a great story.

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Scene 2:

Sitting on my porch with some petites, they bring up the subject of braiding and ask me why I do not braid my hair.

“Gasa am feere feere.” (My hair is different.)

“Ahh,” they say, not quite getting it.

I unwind my hair from its topknot.

“Gasa am haa hoore am.” (My hair is from my head.) To emphasize this fact, I pull on my hair.

A girl shrieks and jumps back in shock, her eyes wide.

Me, the other petites and the mama in my concession double up with laughter.

I officially have a new strategy for convincing my village that my hair is not a weave.

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Scene 3:

Peeling seeds for pistache with my friend before our meeting, she brings up the story about the guy asking for my arm hair.

“Who was it?” she asks.

“The kabob seller,” I reply.

“A Gbaya?”

“Yes, I am pretty sure he lives here.”

“Why did he want it?”

“I haven’t the slightest.”

“Ahh,” she says, “well it is good you didn’t give him your arm hair.”

Amused that this is still a topic of interest, I respond, “okay.”

I don’t know much about selling hair here, but I’ll take her word for it.

We go back to peeling seeds.

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